Everything old is new again for TV this coming fall, with network, cable and streaming options breathing life into familiar ideas.
TV will recycle tried-and-true superhero shows while resurrecting genres relegated to the sidelines for decades, like variety shows.
Common Sense Media TV editor Polly Conway says the new lineup of recycled themes says both networks and TV audiences are tired of the traditional family sitcom.
“The departure from family sitcoms can be both good and bad for audiences,” Conway said. “(Sitcoms) can be comforting, but they’re also well-worn territory, so this is an exciting time.”
Conway says as networks compete with big-budget cable networks like HBO or AMC, they’re pushing the envelope in terms of ideas and new approaches.
“They’re definitely having to re-evaluate what they consider quality because cable is definitely winning (viewers and critical acclaim) at this point,” Conway said. “It’s a challenge for the networks, but I can already see a change in what they’ve offered this season, so it’s a good thing.”
Here are some of the most anticipated shows in the fall TV lineup:
Jim Henson’s famous puppets are coming to ABC this fall with a revamp aimed at adults. The series is shot in a documentary style similar to “The Office” and finds the Muppets as the crew working behind the scenes on a late-night talk show hosted by Miss Piggy. Similar to “The Office,” the series will look further into the cast’s personal lives and the scandals that arise on set and off.
“It’s hard to go wrong with the Muppets,” Conway said. “I think it’s going to be a great aged-up version of Muppet humor.”
Fans of the NBC original series “Heroes” from 2005 will rejoice in the reboot of the show featuring some original cast members. Set in the years following the first series, “Reborn” will follow the same formula of its predecessor, introducing a new round of characters who one day discover they have superpowers. Rather than a mix of ages, Conway says this cast will likely be largely younger.
“They are a lot of young faces here for the new franchise, very much like the new X-Men films,” Conway said.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
Hollywood’s romance with superhero movies has officially trickled down to TV. In addition to shows like “Gotham” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” television (and streaming with Netflix’s “Daredevil”) is trying its hand at stories with comic-book origins. Building on the success of its popular original series “Arrow,” the CW is upping the ante with “Legends of Tomorrow.” This is a creative answer to Marvel’s “Avengers” films; created in the same fictional world as “Arrow,” a group of superheroes band together to foil the efforts of super-villain Vandal Savage from taking over the world.
This series picks up where the 2002 Steven Spielberg movie of the same name left off. In that film, a society of the future prosecutes crimes before they happen by harnessing the powers of people who can foresee future events. In this Fox series, arresting people for “pre-crimes,” as they’re called in the franchise, has been abolished, but the people once trained to see future crimes try to prevent them on their own.
The New Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show
As part of a multiyear contract with DreamWorks Animation, Netflix is bringing back the beloved 1960s cartoon “Mr. Peabody and Sherman.” While the DreamWorks film “Peabody and Sherman” was a flop — DreamWorks took a revenue hit of $57 million when the film failed to make back its budget upon release. The new show is set to mimic the popular animated short that originally aired on “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” — following the hijinks of scientist dog Mr. Peabody and his boy assistant, Sherman, as they travel through time influencing famous historical figures.
Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris
While talent competition shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice” have become mainstays on network TV, the once-popular variety show seems to have been lost to the sands of TV history. Enter Broadway and “How I Met Your Mother” star Neil Patrick Harris, who will host NBC’s resurrection with a show titled, “Best Time Ever.” Like past variety show touchstones such as “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” the show will mesh sketch comedy and talk show elements.